Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cropping decisions

Sometimes I know what I want in a photograph before I take it.  It's so explicit, I could write it down ahead of time like a set of directions.  "Panorama shot, monochrome, misty morning, gallery wrap print on canvas, three feet long by whatever."

On a recent trip I did an overnight at a friend's house.  I'd never been there before.  The view from the backyard blew me away.  Her house is elevated and faces a river with Harrisburg, PA, on the other side. I knew I'd have to photograph the scene the next  morning.

I got my chance. Here's the original shot:

The wide angle lens took in a lot of the foreground along with the composition of sky, city, water, and shore line.  I knew I'd be cropping out most of the foliage in front of me, so that didn't bother me.  The first crop was close to what I had visualized:

I increased the contrast to accentuate the tonal layers of the distant trees and skyline. Some sharpening and adjustment with the clarity slider in Lightroom also helped.  But the biggest improvement came when I converted the image to sepia in Nik Silver Efex Pro.  The house in the center of the foreground no longer dominated the composition.  The image became a picture about horizontal areas and lines, defining two communities on opposite shores. With a little bit more cropped from the bottom, here's what the finished image became:

I made one more composition from the original, using the house in the foreground as the dominant figure in the composition.

This cropping tells an entirely different story about a working class bedroom community developing across the river from the state's capitol city. The residential street and church dominate.  The center of political power and commerce across the river maintains a strong presence, however, and there is a co-dependence between the two.

The high resolution sensors on the current generation of digital cameras permit extensive croppping of image files without sacrificing the ability to create printable pictures.  We can't always "get it right in the camera" and cropping gives us a second, a third, and even more chances at recomposing the final image to tell multiple stories.

No comments: